Friday, June 25, 2010

Keepin' it fresh, unintentionally OR My Adventure!

We've had quite a bit of rain lately.

So much so, the Missouri river has been pushing outside its banks, especially on the Iowa side. Needless to say, this had an effect on my regular, tried, and true commuting route.

It was a beautiful day yesterday, one of the first nice days after a string of thunderstorms and rain. Low wind, blue skies, sun shining. The bike glided almost effortlessly along the trail. There were a few puddles and some standing water, but nothing the super Soma Double Cross couldn't handle. My go to commuter, takes punishing miles and comes back for more. I made the loop around Lake Manawa, no sweat.

When I reached Riverfront Park, it was a different story. As I descended down into the park, I rounded the first curve...and slammed on the brakes. The trail disappeared into a great swamp, definitely not some little puddle or simple standing water. No way would I be able to splash through this mess!

What to do? Here I was, only 3 miles or so from work and I was stopped cold. The first thing crossing my mind was riding all the way back to my truck, load it up and drive into work. Crap. My next thought considered any possible alternate route. Of course I had no contingency, no alternate routes mapped out or any other kind of alternate plan in mind. Jeez.

So, I did the only thing that made sense at the least to me. First, I accepted the fact that I was probably going to be late to work. Now, it was time for an adventure! The only route that I could think of to get me across the river would the South Omaha Bridge road. I turned around hoping a route would magically materialize.

I backtracked to South Omaha Bridge road and started heading west. There is a trail adjacent to the road so I didn't have to ride in traffic. I was wondering what would happen when I arrived at the bridge. I knew they were renovating, so I was hoping there would be a way to cross without having to ride in rush hour.

I shouldn't have worried. The recently and very nicely renovated bridge (I stopped and took pictures btw, subject of a later post) had an excellent pedestrian path. Made it across, no problems.

Next issue...where do I go from here? I was on 13th street in Omaha, south of the Zoo and Rosenblatt stadium. 13th Street was not an option, too much high speed traffic and the College World Series was in town. The bike path terminated once I hit the street. But, I noticed a path on the river levee below the bridge. Now I had to figure how to get under the bridge and onto the levee path, running North towards my intended destination. I found a cross street (and pedestrian path!) running down under the bridge to river level. Great! I was able to find the entrance to the river levee path. I hit the path and started cranking, making great progress...until...

The levee path abruptly ended after about 2 miles. I ran into a gate across the path, and the path behind the gate was no longer paved. This was a dead end. Fortunately if there's a will, there's a way. At the gated point, another path lead down hill to the Burlington Northern railway, which runs parallel to the levee. I could only think "This is where they hide the bodies." but I soldiered on :>)

There was a gravelled right-of-way along the tracks, the only way to go, so I took it. After a couple of hundred yards there was a railroad crossing that led to a gravel 'street'. 3rd and Hickory. A light at the end of the tunnel! There was no place to go but up, and the street numbers were increasing.

I knew where I was, and once I got to 10th street it was North to Dodge and west to 16th and work. I rode through 'Little Italy' on the way, a nice diversion. Past the Durham museum and into downtown, lickety split. Without the backtracking, it's only two miles more than my regular route! -D

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Keepin' it fresh

Google blogger has come out with a new template feature so I decided to try it. How does it look?

It's good to change things up to keep things fresh. I haven't tried all the new templates but the bookshelf background caught my eye.

I've added a new link to my blog list...John Gough's spoke calculator. I've used this application to build wheels, and I can say it hasn't yet miscalculated a spoke length. Thinking about building a new rear wheel for the Double Cross, so I put this here just to make it convenient for me. It might prove to be convenient for someone else should they decide to build their own wheels.

I'm pushing hard to get in 4 days of commuting this week to get the miles up. Need to get the miles in for RAGBRAI. The MS15o Omaha to Lincoln (and back) ride is also coming up mid-July, and is a good yardstick for determining RAGBRAI fitness. Other things I need to do: buy the wife a new sleeping bag and camping bag, get the truck serviced, pull out the RAGBRAI camping list, etc, etc. It'll be here before you know it! -D

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wear and tear

It's been rainy. I rode one commuting ride last week, and my little tater has been here to visit for our family reunion this weekend. Not much bike riding occurring, which I hope to remedy next week.

RAGBRAI is fast approaching, and I need to think about preparing. Besides getting some cycling miles in, the camping equipment needs to be checked and we need to buy my wife a sleeping bag and a camping pad. She is driving our truck, and we are going to rent a U-Haul trailer to haul gear for the remainder of our group.

The Double Cross has been doing a great job on commuting duty. I didn't realize exactly how many miles I've been putting on this bike until I noticed I just wasn't getting the rear wheel braking power I used to. I pulled the rear wheel off and removed the rear brake pads...they were worn down to nearly nothing. The wheel rims also have a wear indicator stamping on the braking surface, and that's now rear wheel history as well. I also noticed the rear wheel is getting a bit out of true as well, and I'm not surprised given the amount of weight and wear put on the rear end of my bike. Of course, my rear tire is nearly shot as well!

The wheels and drivetrain came off my old Giant road sport bike. That bike had at least 4000 miles on it before I made the swap, so all those parts might now have over 10,000 miles on them. The big chain ring is shark-toothing and the cassette is getting worn down as well. This makes me think it's time for a new wheel build, cassette and chain and chain ring swap out.

I like bike projects! -D

Friday, June 4, 2010

WHAT THE F...?!?!? or get out of the freaking tornado doofus!

I hate it when that happens.

I was in the middle of my great story when I accidentally and completely deleted my post. Dammit.

So I'll start over again. My wife says it will even be better this time...but it's still a pain in the ass. My 'new' post starts now.

I wasn't really surprised, but I should have known better. Gravelo was smart enough to call his wife to come and pick him up.

I'm a doofus cycling dog. Let me explain. Most dogs will chase anything right? When another cyclist passes me, I instinctively speed up and try to stay on his wheel. Even if it's an ultra-light crabon roadie racer wearing a jersey proclaiming "Ultra Marathon, Triathlon and Cycling Racing Training Inc." or "53 x 11 or Bust", I'll try to chase it. Definitely if it's a recumbent rider. When I'm in the lead, if a cyclist tries to close the gap behind me, yeah, I'll crank harder. If his goal is to catch and pass me, then he'll have to work a bit harder at it.

So when I see storm clouds over my shoulder coming up fast what do you think I'll do? Will I stop and seek shelter? Ask for a ride? Call the wife to come and pick me up? Of course not! I CAN BEAT THIS.

I commuted to work Tuesday. According to the weather reports, it was going to be a rainy day. However, it was a beautiful morning and when I got to the parking garage there were at least four other bikes in the rack. As the day progressed, I was fairly busy and although I tried to keep an eye on the weather work drama kept me occupied and I stayed longer than I would have liked.

I should have clued in when got to the bike racks and all the bikes were gone. The afternoon was bit gray but as I moved Southeast the sky was clear. I looked over my shoulder I saw some very dark clouds moving in from the Northwest. They looked a long way off and I knew I could make it back to the trail head and my truck before they rolled in.

As I moved past Metro Crossing and rode through the adjacent trailer park, I saw a large group of people standing near the entrances to their newly constructed storm shelter. The dim bulb began to light and maybe I should stop and take shelter here. But noooo....I CAN BEAT THIS.

I turned South on the Lake Manawa bridge and headed toward the levee bridge. The wind direction changed 180 degrees from South to North, and at that point I knew I was screwed. I took advantage of the tailwind and pushed my bike past 20 mph. The low-hanging black and green ominous clouds encircled me like a pair of arms. Then all hell broke loose. I began screaming out loud "I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!!"

With the wind on full boil and huge raindrops pelting me, I managed to make it across the bridge without blowing away. I threw the bike down the slope and dived under the bridge, cowering as the horizontal rain hammered me, stinging my skin. The bridge shook as the wind gusted, and I was wondering if the bridge would disappear or simply just collapse on top of me. Adding injury to insult some hail fell. Great. At least the bridge was overhead (for the time being), keeping the worst of it off me. After about 15 minutes of this mayhem and soaked to the bone, the wind subsided enough so I could get back on my bike and get on my way. Mind you, it was still pouring and gusting a fair amount.

There is a railroad spur that runs east-west toward the end of my commute. The trail runs underneath the track at one point, encircled with a stout concrete tunnel. I managed to make it there choking on the gallons of rain I swallowed, and tried to call my wife. I felt like a drowned rat. Of course, I was in a tunnel, so cell phone reception was almost zero. I found a spot near the end of the tunnel out of the rain where I could get enough signal to make a call. The wife was understandably concerned, but I let her know I was alive and would be continuing on once the weather subsided a bit more. I noticed I had multiple weather alerts !!! on my smart phone.

I got home and got the requisite concern, scorn, then ridicule from my wife. I don't blame her. We watched the weather alerts on TV, hail, high winds (over 70 m.p.h) and tornado warnings.

Lesson: You can't beat Mother Nature. And don't be a dumb ass on your bike. -D